What is Emulators & Simulators and differences

Emulators and Simulators both play a significant role in the designing, developing and building hardware and software systems along with designing a mathematical sequence of steps known as an algorithm and much more. They both equally contribute towards making a perfect application. It seems that they both work in a similar way but that’s not true. People often consider both as same even when there is a lot of difference between them. Let’s have a look at what they are and how they differ from each other.

What are an emulator and a simulator?

Emulators are meant for copying something in the same way as it is exactly in the original world. It is a piece of software that assists in translating compiled code from a real architecture to the system on which it is running. An emulator allows the host to run software or use devices that are developed for the guest. This allows the app developers to test debug applications. Also, to check how they are behaving and working. Like using PlayStation emulator, you can play PlayStation games on PC or other devices.

On the other hand, the simulator is a virtual platform. It is an environment that models and used to make hardware platforms and execute programs. While emulators can substitute the real system simulators aren’t able to substitute with the real system. It is for analysis and study. It does not perform the same functions as the real system does. A similar term related to the emulator is emulation which is nothing but the process of emulating. Likewise, there is simulation meaning the process of simulating.

Difference between emulator and simulator

Before 1980, “emulation” was limited to emulation with a hardware or microcode assist, while “simulation” to pure software emulation. For instance, a computer made for running that is developed for another architecture is an emulator and simulator is the program running on a PC to simulate Atari games on it. Nowadays, “emulation” often stands for the full imitation of a machine executing binary code while “simulation” often means computer simulation, where a computer program is used to simulate an abstract model. Every scientific and engineering domain and computer science uses computer simulation virtually.

Both the terms emulator and simulator are quite different from each other. If emulator does what actually the emulated system does then simulator appears that it is doing the same thing what the simulated system does.

What it imitates?

Most of the emulators only emulate hardware architecture. It imitates mobile device software, mobile device hardware and mobile operating system in case of mobile testing. Whilst, simulators imitates the internal behavior of the device and not the hardware. It mimics the working of real word process or system. The simulation requires that a model be developed representing the key features, behaviors and functions of the chosen physical or abstract system or process. Emulators assist the developers to make and repair the design of the new system without an even actual system is built. Thus, easing the process of software development before the hardware is ready along with validating the design.

How to get one of them?

Getting emulators are easy as it is provided by the device manufactures. Also, you can get simulators in the same way or by any other company.

Difference in internal architecture

Emulators are written in machine-level assembly language. Simulators are written in high-level language.

Which gives better performance?

No doubt, emulators really work slowly but do you know the reason behind that? Emulating the exact hardware generally force the software to run slower than it will do basically. Emulators do its work by handling the behavior of both individual components and processor. They interprets the machine instructions of the system emulated by them. For example, CPU emulators that are hardest to emulate component, consist of instruction sets. It takes times to translate this instruction sets. Thus making emulating a complex abd time-consuming process. At the other side, simulators work better than emulators and also faster. Example of the emulator- Google’s Android SDK and simulator- Apple’s iOS Simulator.

Software or web testers use emulators or simulators highly. They need a way to debug the designed app made for another system and check how it works? If they select real device for testing then the cost will be too high. Can you imagine bringing the device of different iOS and hardware at your workroom and then run your newly designed software on each? You know how expensive it would be.

There are different kinds of emulators such as computer system emulators, CPU emulator, multi-player system emulator and many more. In the same way, there are various simulators like a logic simulator, flight simulator and so on. Depending on your field and need they both are used.


These are the some basic difference between emulators and simulators that hopefully cleared your concept.

What is Emulators & Simulators and differences

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *